Following a tour of Olcott and Wilson harbors, Congressman Chris Collins, NY-27, joined with state and local leaders to highlight the urgent need to maintain and protect local harbors along Lake Ontario's south shoreline. Collins highlighted the important role these harbors play in the region's economy and the need for continued and consistent harbor maintenance.
"These harbors play a critical role in the economy of Western New York through both the direct and spin-off benefits of seasonal recreational activities and the charter fishing industry," he said. "Today I join my colleagues in both state and local government to call for both the continued maintenance and protection that is necessary to keep these harbors viable."
Collins has pushed the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the long-delayed dredging of the harbors. Dredging would remove the sediment buildup that narrows a harbor's channel dimension and creates unsafe navigation conditions for both commercial and recreational boating.
"The dredging of these harbors is long overdue, and is needed in order to maintain and maximize the harbors' economic and recreational importance," Collins said. "Earlier this year, I announced that the Army Corps of Engineers had the funding it needed to perform maintenance dredging in Oak Orchard, Olcott and Wilson harbors in 2014, and I look forward to seeing this necessary process begin next year."
Collins also voiced his opposition to the International Joint Commission plan, which calls for altering water levels for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The International Joint Commission is a joint body between the U.S. and Canada that controls water levels between the two countries.
"The International Joint Commission plan is not in the best interest of homeowners and other stakeholders along the Lake Ontario shoreline," Collins said. "I remain committed to working with my colleagues in state and local government against the implementation of this plan, which would quicken erosion along already rapidly eroding shorelines, lower the property values for specific homeowners, and have a negative impact on the region's economy by affecting recreational and commercial boating."
"We need a unified front when it comes to advocating for the needs of our lakefront communities and harbors," said New York State Sen. George Maziarz, R-62nd District. "Congressman Collins has been at the forefront of our coalition to identify federal dollars for long overdue dredging projects. Cleaning out these waterways so more boaters can use them - and advocating to the IJC on behalf of lakefront property owners - are high priorities for us as representatives."
"I have had the opportunity, along with a number of my colleagues in the State Legislature, to bring my extreme concern with the International Joint Commission plan directly to Gov. Cuomo," said New York State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin. "The IJC study has a clear bias against the residents and businesses along the southern shoreline of Lake Ontario, and includes no provisions to mitigate the negative impact the new water regulations will have on these communities. The Ontario shoreline is such a vital asset to a growing economic driver of the Niagara Region, and preserving the property's integrity of all shoreline communities is a top priority."
"Wilson harbor is the largest naturally protected harbor on the south shore of Lake Ontario, and Olcott was named 'The Ultimate Fishing Town' in 2012 by The World Fishing Network," said Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey. "To close these harbors because of the lack of dredging would be an atrocity, especially when there are funds available specifically for this purpose. In addition to the economic factors, I am concerned from a safety perspective. Our harbors are designated 'harbors of refuge' for boaters during storms, and also include both the sheriff's and the local fire company's rescue boats, providing lifesaving services in times of need."
"It is projected that lake levels would frequently be too high or too low for boaters under the new International Joint Commission Plan," said Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson. "This new plan was created with a disregard for the economy, residential development and sport fishing of lakeside communities. Orleans County residents and elected officials stand resolute with Congressman Collins in protecting the waters, streams and harbors of Lake Ontario."
According to the US Army Corps of Engineers:
•Oak Orchard Harbor (Town of Carlton, Orleans County) was last dredged in 2004 when 10,700 cubic yards of material was removed. This harbor should be dredged every three to five years. In order to maintain adequate channel depth, 18,000 CY of dredging will be required. The total sediment backlog is estimated at approximately 35,000 CY.
•Olcott Harbor (Village of Olcott, Niagara County) was last dredged in 1997 when 9,900 cubic yards of material was removed. This harbor should be dredged every five to 10 years. The current sediment backlog is estimated at approximately 55,000 CY.
•Wilson Harbor (Town of Wilson, Niagara County) was last dredged in 2000 when 5,100 cubic yards of material was removed. This harbor should be dredged every three to five years. The current sediment backlog is estimated at approximately 55,000 CY.